24 June 1995
Before Voldemort could stick his snake-like face around the headstone, Harry had stood up...he gripped his wand tightly in his hand, thrust it out in front of him, and threw himself around the headstone, facing Voldemort.
Voldemort was ready. As Harry shouted "Expelliarmus!", Voldemort cried, "Avada Kedavra!"
A jet of green light issued from Voldemort's wand just as a jet of red light blasted from Harry's – they met in mid-air – and suddenly, Harry's wand was vibrating as though an electric charge was surging through it; his hand had seized up around it; he couldn't have released it if he'd wanted to – and a narrow beam of light was now connecting the two wands, neither red nor green, but bright, deep gold – and Harry, following the beam with his astonished gaze, saw that Voldemort's long white fingers, too, were gripping a wand that was shaking and vibrating.
And then – nothing could have prepared Harry for this – he felt his feet lift from the ground. He and Voldemort were both being raised into the air, their wands still connected by that thread of shimmering golden light. They were gliding away from the tombstone of Voldemort's father, and then came to rest on a patch of ground that was clear and free of graves... The Death Eaters were shouting, they were asking Voldemort for instructions; they were closing in, re-forming the circle around Harry and Voldemort, the snake slithering at their heels, some of them drawing their wands–
The golden thread connecting Harry and Voldemort splintered: though the wands remained connected, a thousand more offshoots arced high over Harry and Voldemort, criss-crossing all around them, until they were enclosed in a golden, dome-shaped web, a cage of light, beyond which the Death Eaters circled like jackals, their cries strangely muffled now...
"Do nothing!" Voldemort shrieked to the Death Eaters, and Harry saw his eyes wide with astonishment at what was happening, saw him fighting to break the thread of light still connecting his wand with Harry's; Harry held onto his wand more tightly, with both hands, and the golden thread remained unbroken. "Do nothing unless I command you!" Voldemort shouted to the Death Eaters.
And then an unearthly and beautiful sound filled the air...it was coming from every thread of the light-spun web vibrating around Harry and Voldemort. It was a sound Harry recognised, though he had heard it only once before in his life...phoenix song...
It was the sound of hope to Harry...the most beautiful and welcome thing he had ever heard in his life...he felt as though the song was inside him instead of just around him...it was the sound he connected with Dumbledore, and it was almost as though a friend was speaking in his ear...
Don't break the connection.
I know, Harry told the music, I know I mustn't...but no sooner had he thought it, than the thing became much harder to do. His wand began to vibrate more powerfully than ever...and now the beam between him and Voldemort changed, too...it was as though large beads of light were sliding up and down the thread connecting the wands – Harry felt his wand give a shudder under his hand, as the light beads began to slide slowly and steadily his way...the direction of the beam's movement was now towards him, from Voldemort, and he felt his wand shudder angrily...
As the nearest bead of light moved nearer to Harry's wand tip, the wood beneath his fingers grew so hot he feared it would burst into flame. The closer that bead moved, the harder Harry's wand vibrated; he was sure his wand would not survive contact with it; it felt as though it was about to shatter under his fingers–
Before Harry could let go, could think to find a way to stop it, the first bead touched his wand, and it exploded from his fingers, the air charged with the red of his disarming charm, and Harry slammed against the singing web. His back burned and the phoenix song was no longer so friendly, so reassuring, but screaming in his ears, Get up! Get up! And Harry raised his eyelids in time to watch as the light of the web turned sickly green – green like the Killing Curse – before his entire world spiralled into pain and black.
Salazar was walking along the path, watching as the sun sank towards the horizon, and just thinking that it might be a good idea to find a place to camp out for the night, when there was the sudden scream of birdsong from all around him. He immediately pulled out his sword, left hand turned to release his hidden wand at the sign of a magical enemy, and turned in place, trying to find the actual direction of the grating music.
A blast of golden light came from the line of trees just in his line of sight, and the song fell dead, leaving behind an eerie silence that brought goosebumps to Salazar's arms.
He considered the direction of the flash for a long moment before relaxing his stance and moving, ever cautious, towards the tree-line. Golden light meant magic, and as much as he didn't want to get involved in any magical battles while he was alone and on business, he also couldn't, in good conscience, keep on when there might be a magical hurt. His master had often said that it was the duty of all things magical to help those others with magic; Gods knew no one else would.
Slowly, normal animal sounds returned to the area, and Salazar felt himself relaxing, almost against his will, at the assurance that whatever danger had been was gone. He considered heading on his way – he still needed to make camp for the night – but there'd been no sign of anything leaving, and that had been a distinctly magical occurrence.
He found the cause of the light – or, at the least, the victim of it – not far inside the tree-line. A boy lay face-down in a patch of heather. Criss-crossing lines of burns were etched across his back, legs, and arms, cutting through his dirty red robes and singed black hair. His hands – what Salazar could see of them from where they rested under the edges of his robes – were blistered a violent red, blood seeping from whatever wounds there were on the palms to dye the pink heather bloody red.
Salazar thought, distantly, that this person – man? boy? – had been through hell and back. If he was dead...
But, no. The burned back rose – shaking with what must be terrible pain – and fell with breath. And Salazar knew, with the same certainty that he'd known his mother loved him, that he could never turn and walk away from someone so wounded. That he was alive was a miracle, and to see him survive the night would be the will of the Gods, but Salazar would do what he could, no matter his other duties; Godric, Rowena, and Helga would understand.
Harry woke slowly, feeling as though he lay under a hundred blankets, but when he moved to push them off, pain raced across his back and down his arms. He let out a hiss.
There was a clatter off to one side and a hand rested against Harry's forehead. Through a fog, he heard a murmur of noise that might have been speech, but sleep was pulling him back under and he no longer cared.
The next time Harry woke, it was more sudden. Remembering the pain from before – and, vaguely, the golden web that had burned when he'd hit it – he kept very still as he opened his eyes.
What met him was not the cracked ceiling of the hospital wing, as he'd expected, but dark green cloth wall and a hanging lantern. 'Where am I?'
A sound came to him of fabric on fabric and Harry turned his head to look towards it. A man with chin-length black hair and eyes disturbingly similar in colour to Harry's own was slipping in through what looked to be a tent entrance. He held a stone bowl in one hand and a sheathed sword knocked against his leg, attached to a leather belt worn over an extremely long shirt/short dress. 'Tunic,' Harry's mind supplied, sounding suspiciously like Hermione.
The man looked towards Harry and blinked, then his lips curled with a smile and he hurried forward, saying, "Þú bist wæccende! Þú bist hál?"
Harry stared for a moment, then croaked, "I...don't... Do you speak English?"
The man frowned. "Englisc? Íc ágitaþ ne..." He sighed and shook his head. "Ungelícu geþéodeu...? Ah!" He smiled at Harry, who was staring at him like he'd lost his mind. "Íc eftgemyndge þone galdorcwide!" He pulled out a wand and, before Harry could think he might be in some kind of danger, gave it a wave, intoning, "Efengedæle geþéode."
Harry closed his eyes against an onslaught of knowledge. Without any reason as to how he knew it, he now understood the language the man had been speaking to be Englisc – the form of English he knew as 'Old English' – and he knew he could both write and speak it himself. It was...uncanny.
"Do you understand me now, boy?" the man asked, and Harry knew he was speaking Englisc, yet he understood it as if he'd been speaking the modern English Harry had grown up with.
"Yea– Erm, yes. Sorry." He shook his head and looked up at the man, finding it easier to remember to speak in this new – old? – language than he'd thought it would be, but he did still have to think about it.
The man's face relaxed with a smile. "Good. How are you feeling? Your back should be mostly healed."
Harry very carefully shifted and was relieved to feel no pain. "It is, yeah," he breathed and the other's face crinkled with a frown. "Oh, bugger! Yes," he corrected, grimacing. "This is going to take some getting used to."
The man nodded, smiling wry. "It is. I've made the mistake more than once with the others, before we could smooth out our languages." At Harry curious frown, he explained, "The spell can only be cast once per twenty-four hours for any one person, and Godric and I were the only ones with a language in co– Are you well?"
Harry shook his head and closed his eyes. "Godric Gryffindor?" he near-squeaked.
"The same," the man agreed, waving a stool over and sitting next to the cot Harry lay in. "You know him, then?" he asked as he summoned a water skin for the boy.
"I–" Harry shook his head. "Damn it all," he muttered in English before switching to Englisc and saying, "I know of him. You wouldn't happen to be Salazar Slytherin?"
The man blinked in surprise. "Indeed I am."
"Merlin's hairy bollocks. Why does this shit always happen to me?" Harry complained, closing his eyes and resisting the urge to beat his head against the pillow under his head.
"And your name?" Salazar asked, resisting the urge to demand the boy speak in the language they now shared; he was still used to his native language, so he would naturally fall into it first, unless he was trying not to. A few weeks speaking Englisc would cure him of that, but it would still take time.
Harry sighed. "Harry Potter," he offered, figuring he was far enough back in history that using his real name shouldn't mess with the timeline too much. And, if it did, Harry didn't really care. "I'm sorry, I– Do you happen to know the date?"
"Three days past Mabon," Salazar said.
"Mabon?" Harry repeated.
"The autumn equinox?" Salazar sighed. "You've been sleeping for five days."
"Fiv– Bloody– Fuck– Why does this shit always happen to me?" Harry demanded, not even noticing as he fell back into his native tongue when he couldn't find invectives rude enough to please him. "It's not bad enough I had to run through a maze and go up against Voldemort, but then I get thrown back in time and sleep for five days? Why does– Does God hate me or something?"
"Christian. Of course," Salazar muttered to himself, having recognised the name for the god of the religious sect in the babble of unfamiliar language, before setting a gentle hand on the boy's shoulder. "Harry."
The boy sighed and closed his eyes, resigned. "Sorry. I just... Sorry. Bad week."
"I don't doubt that."
Harry opened his mouth to ask how Salazar would know, then remembered his wounds and grimaced. "Yes..."
Salazar cocked his head to one side. "What happened? All I saw was a gold light."
"Gold light?" Harry murmured frowning. Then he shook his head and said, "It's complicated."
"These things often are," Salazar agreed drily. "But I should like you to tell me; I have never seen such wounds, and rarely one so young as yourself so badly wounded. Had I been non-magical, you would be dead."
Harry felt a chill run down his spine and he swallowed; he'd nearly died, would have died if Salazar Slytherin hadn't been nearby. "I–" His voice caught and he shook his head. "What's the year?"
Salazar raised an eyebrow at that. "The year?" he wondered, frowning in thought. "You follow the Christian calendar?"
Harry blinked a few times. 'Christian calendar? Well, maybe? It is based off when Christ was born, right?' "Uhm, yes. I guess?"
"You guess?" Salazar repeated before shaking his head. "I believe, then, that this is the year seven hundred twenty-two."
Harry closed his eyes, feeling sick. Logically, he knew he had to be at least a thousand years in the past to be sitting in a tent with Salazar Slytherin. But it was one thing to know you were so far from home, and another thing entirely to know exactly how far away home was.
"Harry?" Salazar asked, touching his shoulder again.
"Sorry," Harry whispered, looking up into similar green eyes. "What do you know of time travel?"
"Very little," Salazar admitted, suspicions forming in his eyes. "If the Gods will it, it may occur. You have travelled in time?"
"Over a thousand years," Harry agreed. When Salazar simply nodded, not debating the validity of that statement, Harry asked, "You believe me?"
Salazar shrugged. "It answers some questions," he offered, when Harry frowned, confused, Salazar explained, "Your robes were of a different weave and fabric than I have seen, as was your footwear. And your language; there are times I almost understand a word, but I know all the languages of the Isles, and what you speak isn't one of them. Your eyewear, also, was unusual."
"My eyewear? Oh! Yes, where are my glasses? And how come I can see?" Harry added, remembering that he'd been able to see Salazar without any trouble when he'd first entered.
"Your glasses didn't survive your trip," Salazar offered, "and I wasn't certain of my ability to repair them. There is a spell to repair poor vision which I used. It will have to be re-cast every five years or so, but it is far simpler than requiring eyewear."
"Oh. Well, thanks. I'll have to learn that spell..." Harry's expression fell as he remembered another problem. "I don't suppose I had my wand on me?"
Salazar shook his head. "I saw no wand, though I admit, it was not my concern."
Harry sighed and nodded. "Figures. I don't suppose there's somewhere I can get a new one? Somehow?"
"If we can find him, Master Ollivander will likely make you a wand."
Harry smiled at the familiar name. "Well, that's good, then. I'm not sure how I'll pay for it..."
"Master Ollivander doesn't usually ask payment," Salazar offered. "Too many magicals have little or nothing to offer in return for a wand, so he makes them for free. If you can bring him a rare material, it pleases him, but he will not require anything."
Salazar considered him for a moment, then commented, "It's probably best you don't tell me the truth of what happened to you, to protect the timeline."
"Oh, yes," Harry agreed.
Salazar nodded. "I only ask this: Is there any likelihood that whoever – or whatever – hurt you will follow you here?"
Harry thought back to that desperate fight in the graveyard and all he knew of Voldemort. For all that the man might well like coming back to the time of the Founders, he doubted Voldemort would take the chance that he'd be stuck here, alone. And, anyway, there was little to no chance that Harry would survive to cause Voldemort difficulty again, beyond seeing to it that the Dark Lord had never been born. (Tempting as that was, Harry wasn't even sure how to accomplish it, beyond killing Salazar, but the wizard in question had already saved his life, which sort put paid to that idea.)
In the end, Harry shook his head. "No. If he thinks I might have survived that at all, I doubt he'd know where to look for me. More likely, he thinks I'm dead." Harry touched the healed cut on his arm, where Wormtail had taken his blood, and fought the urge to cry as he remembered his friends and Sirius, who he'd never see again. "He's right," he added in a whisper.
Salazar touched the boy's shoulder, heart aching at the lost look in his eyes. "Sleep, Harry," he suggested. "It will help."
Harry wondered about the truth of that, but he turned his head and closed his eyes all the same, remembering Ron and Hermione and Sirius as they were, and trying not to hurt too much.
Once certain Harry had fallen to sleep, his muffled sniffs long silenced, Salazar retired to his own cot to think.
His first thoughts, as they had been since he'd found the boy, were for his injuries: How could a boy so young have an enemy so intent on hurting him? What sort of person would be so intent on harming a child? Was this the future they had to look forward to? One where magic was used to severely harm – torture, based on the readings of the unfamiliar pain curse Salazar had noted – and perhaps kill children?
'Violence begets violence,' Salazar's master had been fond of saying, but he wondered, now, what sort of violence this boy had done to this other that would end with him so near death.
'I don't know the facts,' Salazar reminded himself, sighing. 'Just because I read no violence from the boy doesn't mean he is innocent.'
Yet, Salazar was a Legilimens of such prowess that it took him but a brief moment of touching another's mind to understand their base character. And he read only a gentle soul from this boy; battered, and willing to fight to protect himself and others, but still gentle. There was no will to kill within the boy, no interest in harming another, even when his thoughts had so obviously turned towards the one that had hurt him. There'd been anger, yes, and a need for justice, but no lust for blood.
Salazar turned his thoughts away from the damage to the boy's body and, instead, to what he'd learned of his past. 'Not much,' Salazar thought, 'but enough, perhaps.'
He was from the future, far into the future. Salazar had wondered, when he'd had the time to look over the boy's ruined clothing, but he'd not been certain, and he never would have guessed such a length of time. Could he find a way to get the boy home? He would try, both to protect the timeline, and to get the boy back to his family.
And there did seem to be a form of family the boy needed to get back to, if the flash of thoughts he'd read from the boy was accurate. A man – father? uncle? – and a boy and girl Harry's own age – close friends, or siblings? There were others, too, but those were the only faces Salazar had caught before Harry had turned away. Harry had been sad and hurt at the thought that he would never see them again, but there was also a resignation there, a sense of 'I knew it would happen'.
'What pain have you endured, Harry Potter, that you resign yourself so easily to a life apart from your family and friends?'
It pained Salazar to admit that, in refusing to pry further into the boy's past, he had resigned himself to never fully knowing the truth of who Harry Potter was. He could learn his character, and Harry might well let little things slip, but he could never know everything about the boy.
As sleep finally claimed Salazar, his last thought was, 'I wonder if Hogwarts survives a thousand years. Our names certainly seem to have...'
Harry woke to raised voices. They were muffled by the walls of the tent, but still travelled through the crack of the door enough that they drew him from his pleasant memories of Hermione and Ron. He thought he recognised Salazar's voice – 'You've met a Founder!' the tiny Hermione in him squeed – but the other male was unfamiliar.
Well, Harry wasn't much one for lying about in bed – he'd done enough of that for the past week, for all that he couldn't remember it – and he felt more than well enough to get up and see what was going on. He pushed the blankets back to get out, then flushed when he realised he was naked and there was nothing to slip into next to the cot. 'He couldn't have conjured me clothing?' Harry grumbled as he separated the least scratchy blanket from the three on his bed and wrapped it around his middle; it would have to do.
Harry poked his head out of the tent doorway and found Salazar standing in front of a tall man with a mane of red hair. The man wore red while Salazar wore green, and it made Harry think of Christmas. He stifled a grin.
"–no excuse for you to slack in your duties, Salazar!" the man in red was shouting. "I don't care how many snakes you've found–"
"What do you have against snakes?" Salazar wondered coolly, not raising his voice in the way his companion was. "And, as I said in my message, this is important–"
"Your idea of important and my idea of important differ greatly," the taller man boomed.
"Perhaps if you told me what was so damned important that you had to laze about in the forest for a week–"
"It's none of your business, and I'll thank you not to pry," Salazar retorted. "If you're so worried about the time we're losing while I'm on holiday–"
"Holiday," the big man scoffed.
"–then perhaps you should be out there, picking up my slack."
"It's not my job to pick up your–" The big man blinked, finally noticing the figure standing in the doorway of the tent, a blanket wrapped around his waist. "Salazar, who's that?"
"Who's who?" Salazar asked, but he was already turning to look. The mild irritation he'd been feeling at the other man vanished as he caught sight of the boy in the doorway, only to be replaced by concern. "Harry, you shouldn't be up."
"I–" Harry paused and took a moment to remember to speak in Englisc, then started again, "I feel fine."
"Just because you 'feel fine' doesn't mean you should be out of bed. Go."
Harry scowled. "What are you, my mother?" he muttered in English.
"Now," Salazar ordered, not needing a translation to guess as to what the teen had said; he was familiar enough with that tone of voice and body language.
"Going," Harry muttered and returned to the inside of the tent.
Behind Salazar, the larger man drew in a sharp breath, and Salazar knew he'd seen the criss-crossing scars covering Harry's back and upper arms, from the burns he'd been unable to completely heal, no matter what he'd used. Honestly, he'd been lucky they'd scabbed over at all. The wounds on Harry's hands, inner elbow, and leg had all healed with little to no trouble, but the marks on his back had not.
"You should have said," the large man said, voice softened with sorrow.
"You three would have just rushed out here and demanded to hover," Salazar replied, turning back to frown at his fellow. "I'd have had to keep kicking you out and lost my concentration. It was hard enough healing him without a distraction; he'd be dead now if you three had been here, Godric."
Godric Gryffindor winced. "I suppose," he allowed. As much as he hated to admit it, Salazar had probably called it right; of the four friends, he was the best with healing magic and potions, having studied for a time under the foremost healer of their time. "Well, I know of him now," he pointed out hopefully.
Salazar shot him a knowing look, then sighed. "Oh, very well. But you won't be sending Rowena and Helga out to check in on him," he added, narrowing his eyes at Godric's pleased grin, which fell at his words. "When Harry is well enough to travel, I will bring him to the castle and you can all coddle him to your hearts' content there."
Godric sighed. "Very well. Am I at least allowed to tell the ladies why you've decided to go on holiday? Or will you curse me for mentioning that, as well?"
Salazar considered it, then shrugged. "You may tell them so long as you keep them from flying out here to torment me."
Godric rolled his eyes. "Of course, Salazar. May I meet this boy now? Harry, you called him?"
Salazar nodded and led the way into the tent. He was pleased to find that Harry had returned to his cot, though the boy was scowling a bit. His expression lightened when he saw Salazar, then added a wary gleam as Godric followed him. "Harry," Salazar said, "this is Godric Gryffindor. Godric, Harry Potter."
The wary gleam vanished as soon as he heard Godric's name and Harry grinned. "Hello!"
"Hello, young Harry," Godric replied, calling over Salazar's usual stool and sitting next to the cot. "So you are the secret that has kept Salazar so long from his duties."
"Godric!" Salazar hissed, glaring at his friend.
"Yes, sorry about that," Harry murmured, looking down at his blanket.
Godric sighed. "Don't take it so, child. Salazar was to be looking for children for our new school, anyway; finding you was not truly an abandonment of his duties, simply a detour."
Green eyes peeked out from under the mop of black hair. "New school?" he repeated, curiosity lacing his words.
"Ah. Has Salazar been so busy mothering you that he hasn't even mentioned Hogwarts?" Godric asked, chuckling.
Harry's lips turned with a smile that didn't reach his eyes. "Something like that," he agreed, and a quick flash of Legilimency told Salazar that the boy was remembering he'd been asleep for five days.
'I need to teach him to close him mind,' Salazar mused. 'It's too dangerous for him to go around with an open mind, not with the future knowledge he has.'
"Well, it's to be in this massive stone fortress we've renovated; a castle, we've made it," Godric explained, face lighting up as he set to talking of his newest favourite topic. "We – Salazar, Rowena, Helga, and myself – are taking the time until Yule to collect students and, maybe, some members of staff because, you know, you can't really have a dozen children running around a castle and only a few adults to watch them and make the food and keep the place clean."
Harry laughed. "No, of course not. So when are you going to start teaching these children? As they show up?"
Godric shook his head, grin widening as he found an interested audience. "Right after Yule, but we're taking in children with nowhere else to go before then, if it's needed." He paused, expression turning grave. "Might I assume you'll be joining us for Yule?"
Harry's smile slipped for a breath before he forced it back in place. "Guess so," he agreed.
Godric touched the boy's blanket-cover knee and sighed. "I am sorry, child, for your loss," he offered. "I must also ask how you received the scars on your back."
Harry blinked in surprise even as Salazar snapped, "Godric!"
"If there's a magical in the area beating on children, we need to let families know," Godric insisted, turning to frown at Salazar.
"Sorry," Harry broke in, eyes sharp with dawning comprehension. "Scars on my back?"
Godric snapped his mouth shut, disbelieving. It was Salazar who spoke then, commenting, "He's not seen them." He waved his wand, conjuring a mirror behind the boy, and said, "There."
Harry took a deep breath, then turned his head and looked over his shoulder. He winced in remembered pain at the criss-crossing of lines etched into his skin – he wasn't likely to forget the pain he'd felt when he hit that golden web – then turned back to the two adults. "He's long gone," he said quietly to Godric. "Left the Isles, by now," he added, recalling the word Salazar had used for Britain the day before.
"I wasn't unmindful of the potential danger," Salazar added drily. "You insult me to act as though I wouldn't have looked into that already."
Godric winced. "I don't mean insult, Salazar. It's simply that you've busy caring for Harry–"
"I'm not insulted, Godric," Salazar commented.
Godric let out an amused snort. "No, you're just making a point." He got to his feet. "Very well, Salazar. I'll leave everything in your ever capable hands."
"Finally," Salazar muttered.
Godric chuckled. "I warn you now, however, that I can only promise to keep a reign on Helga for another week, so don't take too long."
Salazar sneered. "Take away her wand and lock her in a cupboard."
Godric turned to Harry, grinning. "Harry, I shall see you when you join us at the castle. Until then, focus on healing and ignore Salazar if he gets grumpy."
Harry covered his own smile. "Okay. Goodbye, sir."
"Godric," the man insisted and Harry nodded.
"Out," Salazar ordered and the larger man did so, laughing. After a moment of silence, Salazar turned to Harry and asked, "Was he at all like you expected?"
Harry shrugged and shook his head. "I tried not to have any expectations," he admitted. "He reminded me a bit of–" Harry's mouth snapped shut as his thoughts caught up and he took a deep breath against the uprising of sadness. "He reminds me of my best friend," Harry finally finished quietly.
Salazar took the seat next to Harry's cot. "In what way?" he asked, recalling the redhead he'd seen in the boy's memories the day before. There had been a certain degree of similarity to Godric in the colour of their hair.
Harry considered that for a moment, uncertain if he could speak of his friends without hurting himself too much or polluting the timeline. 'Over one thousand years,' Harry reminded himself. 'And Hermione's always telling me to talk about what's troubling me.'
"Ron..." Harry started frowning down at his eyes. "Well, Ron's got red hair, same as Gryffi–"
"Call him Godric, Harry," Salazar interrupted gently.
Harry blinked. "Oh. But...he's going to be my teacher, right? Maybe?"
Salazar snorted. "Perhaps. But if you go around calling him Gryffindor, you might well get him confused with his son or wife."
"He's got a family?" Harry asked, leaning forward. "What about the rest of you?"
Salazar sighed. Of course the boy would be just as interested in learning about himself and his fellows as Salazar was in learning about Harry. "Godric has a wife, Bernia, and a son, Kenric; Rowena has a husband, Holden, and a daughter, Helena; and Helga has a husband, Roscoe, a daughter, Ramona, and a son, Conrad. I have never been married."
Harry smiled. "I didn't know any of that," he admitted. "I mean, I know you lot – Godric and Ra-Rowena and Hu-Helga and you – but I didn't know anything about your families."
"I'm sure you'll learn all our sordid histories," Salazar said drily and Harry grinned. "Tell me about Ron."
Harry's eyes narrowed with suspicion, smile vanishing. "Why?"
Salazar's lips twitched with a smile. "Because I'm curious," he admitted.
Harry considered that for a moment, then said, "He was my first friend. We met on the..." He frowned as he tried to find a word for 'train' in Englisc, only to remember trains didn't exist yet. "Ah. We met on the way to Hogwarts, then. I suppose."
"You suppose?" Salazar repeated, amused.
"The method of transportation we use doesn't exist yet," Harry retorted. Then, realisation hitting him like a bucket of ice, and he corrected, "Used."
"He was your first friend?" Salazar interrupted, refusing to let the boy stay upset for long.
"Huh? Oh, yes. My cousin used to beat up anyone who tried to befriend me. He was a muggle," Harry added.
Harry frowned and thought back over what he'd said. "A mugg– Oh!" It took Harry a minute to sort out the word he needed, then he explained, "Non-magical. We call them muggles."
Salazar raised an eyebrow at that. "I see." He stood and walked over to his food stores to get them both something to eat. "Keep talking," he suggested.
So Harry did. He explained all about Ron's big family, tripping over what how to refer to Mr Weasley, Percy, and Bill's jobs and taking care not to use their last name. Just in case.
And when Harry had finished talking about the Weasleys, he mentioned Hermione: "My other friend is Hermione. She's the brightest witch in our year. Both of her parents are non-magical, so she sometimes gets called names–"
"Why?" Salazar asked, honestly confused as to why that should be a problem.
Harry opened his mouth to respond, then closed it and frowned. "I tried not to have expectations," he'd said about Godric, and while that mostly held true for the other three Founders, he did have expectations for Salazar: muggle-hater, against those not pure of blood being in Hogwarts, rather Snape-like.
But Salazar wasn't like Snape. He was a bit snarky at times, sure, but he'd treated Harry well, rather than like crud on the bottom of his boots. He hadn't reacted at all to Harry's comment as to his cousin being a muggle, beyond asking what a 'muggle' was.
Harry shook his head. "Sorry. Uhm, in the future, there's a large group of purebloods – those who can trace the magic in their family back generations – who think that those with non-magical parents don't deserve to learn magic, because they're not 'true' witches and wizards. Or some such."
"Preposterous!" Salazar declared. "Who are these fools to debate the design of the Gods? Those gifted with magic were done so for a reason, and it is their birthright to learn to use it to the fullest of their abilities. That is why we're building Hogwarts, so everyone can learn magic, not just those privileged or lucky enough to have access to someone who's willing to take on an apprentice."
Harry stared at him for a moment before a slow smile twisted his mouth. "I guess that part got lost to time," he said and Salazar's scowl deepened. "I sort of wish I could get back home and mention that to all the purebloods, though."
"So do I," Salazar muttered, disgusted. No wonder there were wizards and witches willing to attack children, if they'd adopted such ridiculous thoughts about the superiority of blood.
Harry grinned outright at the man, imagining the reaction of those purebloods back home if Salazar Slytherin showed up to call them all idiots when they believed he had been on their side. "Our second year," he said, "Mal– Draco called Hermione a mudblood – it's the absolutely worst insult for someone with non-magical parents – and we were with a bunch of upper year G– erm. Upper years, and they about ripped his face off."
"Good on them," Salazar declared and Harry nodded. "Did you try anything on this child?"
"It was the first time I'd heard the word," Harry admitted. "I was raised by non-magicals, see, so I was always a bit behind Ron and the others who were raised by magicals."
"How did your teachers handle it? The varying amounts of knowledge, I mean," Salazar asked, and Harry heard the uncertainty of starting a school for the first time in the history of the magical world in his voice.
Harry considered his answer before slowly replying, "Well, I suppose they taught us all the same. They picked a bit of a middle-ground; those students that were ahead got a bit of review and could study ahead on their own, if they were of a mind to, and those that were behind got help from their professors outside class or from their fellow students. I mean, other than Defence, the professors had all been there for a while, so they'd probably found the best level to teach at."
"Defence Against the Dark Arts," Harry clarified after sorting through his new language to find the words that would best equal what they called the class. "There's a bit of a curse on the position, so we've only ever had a professor for one year, then they're gone. It's...not been easy," he finished wryly.
"No, that wouldn't be," Salazar agreed, wincing in sympathy. "Were they at least all good teachers?"
"Oh, about half and half," Harry replied airily, having resigned himself to the curse around the time Lockhart had obliviated himself. "First year we had a stutterer who was sort of possessed by–" Harry motioned to his back and shook his head. Salazar nodded his understanding, fighting not to grind his teeth at the thought of the wizard who'd so hurt the boy. "He wasn't too bad, if you ignored the stuttering. And his attempts to kill me. Second year was a self-important fraud, but last year and this year were both excellent."
Salazar cleared his throat. "You are surprisingly calm about having a wizard trying to kill you."
Harry frowned. "I'm used to it," he admitted. "He killed my parents when I was one. Tried to kill me, too, but it backfired." He fingered a scar on his forehead that Salazar had remembered noticing while he'd been trying to keep the boy alive, then ignored in favour of working on the most recent damage. "First year he tried to kill me...twice, that I know of. Second year he set a basilisk on me. Third year...actually, that wasn't his fault. This year I almost died a few times for his grand plan. And then, well..." Harry shrugged. "As far as he's concerned, I'm dead."
"Unless you can hunt down and kill his ancestors," Salazar commented, green eyes sharp.
Harry became very, very still for a long moment before commenting, "Merlin knows what that would do to the timeline."
Salazar shot him an odd look, but nodded. "Indeed. Tell me, Harry, what do you know of the mind arts?"
"Mind arts?" Harry repeated, glancing at Salazar. "Nothing, I don't think."
Salazar nodded again, having expected as much. "They're two-part: Occlumency, which is used to protect the mind from outside invasion, and Legilimency, which is used to invade another's mind."
Suspicion flashed in Harry's eyes and he tensed. "I see," he said. Then, after a beat, "You know this 'Legilimency'." It wasn't a question.
"I do." Salazar saw no reason to lie, especially if he was going to teach the boy.
"You've used it on me." Also not a question.
Salazar paused for a beat, knowing he had to be careful here, and allowed, "There is a form of Legilimency which allows the Legilimens to skim the surface of another's thoughts; to get a feel for their current emotions and see an occasional, strong image." He paused for his own beat, then agreed, "I have used this on you, yes."
Harry let out a sharp breath. "Paranoid bastard," he muttered, but there was no heat to it. "How common are people who use Legilimency?"
"Legilimens," Salazar corrected and Harry nodded his understanding. "Not very, admittedly, but there are a few out there, and most of them are, as you called me, paranoid."
"And I'm from the future," Harry murmured, frowning. "How does one learn Occlumency?"
Salazar smiled; oh, he was going to have quite the fight on his hands if he was going to keep Harry as one of his primaries. "It is an art of the mind, so one must first be capable of governing their own mind. This requires a clarity of thoughts. Perhaps focus all your attention on one particular image or sound, and then let everything else slip, forgotten, into the background. Learning to quickly slip into this trance is the first step of Occlumency."
Harry cocked his head to one side, then nodded and closed his eyes.
Salazar remained in his seat for a few minutes before deciding Harry would call him if he needed him. He gathered their bowls – Harry cracked one eye and looked to see what he was up to, then returned to his thoughts – and took them over to clean up. Once that was done, he sorted through the potions he kept on his person in case of emergencies and decided he could do with more healing potions – most of them had been used on Harry – and set up his cauldron to do some brewing.
Almost two hours later, Salazar bottled the last of his potion and finally looked back towards Harry, only to find the boy sleeping. He chuckled to himself, recalling his own many naps during his first attempts to learn Occlumency, and walked over to wake the boy. "Harry," he called, touching the boy's shoulder.
Harry's eyes shot open, one hand reaching to his hip. After a breath, he relaxed. "Slyth– Salazar. Hello."
"Hello," Salazar replied, smiling. "Focussing on a single thing is quite exhausting, isn't it?"
Harry flushed. "Ah. Damn. Sorry." He straightened from his slouch.
Salazar shook his head. "All students of Occlumency fall asleep a few times when they're first beginning, and you're still healing. For all that you may feel fine," he added when Harry frowned. "There was a great deal of magic in those burns on your back; I healed the skin, but it will take a few more days before your system can finish flushing the excess magic from them. There's no pain, but you'll tire easily."
"Oh." Harry rubbed the back of his neck, flinching when he touched the top of the scars. "You know, if you'd mentioned that, I never would have tried climbing out of bed."
"I will endeavour to remember that, should we find ourselves in a similar situation in future," Salazar replied drily and Harry grinned. "For now, it has been some hours since the soup; are you interested in something else, or would you prefer to return to focussing?"
Harry considered that for a moment, then offered, "The focussing, I think."
Salazar nodded. "Very well. I need to go out into the woods to collect some ingredients."
"Oh, okay," Harry agreed with a shrug, then closed his eyes.
Salazar shook his head, amused, and collected his kit before heading for the entrance. He was just lifting the door out of the way when Harry called his name and he looked back to see the boy watching him, expression troubled. "Yes?"
"Uhm. I sort of...need to use the..." His nose wrinkled. "...the privy."
Salazar ruthlessly suppressed the urge to laugh and pointed to a section of the tent that had been enclosed with a curtain and warded against smell and sound. "There. Yes, you may leave the cot for that."
Harry huffed. "I should hope so," he replied before looking down at the blanket wrapped around his waist and tangled in the other blankets on his bed. "I don't suppose I can have real clothing?" he added hopefully.
Salazar considered that, then walked over and picked out one of the blankets on the bed to transfigure into a grey tunic and trousers. "Acceptable?"
"Yes, I suppose," Harry agreed and tugged the tunic on over his head, saving the trousers for when he was done in the privy. The set of his shoulders relaxed minutely and he smiled faintly. "Thanks, Salazar."
Salazar inclined his head, then left the boy to stumble out of his nest of blankets and into the privy.
Salazar spent almost three hours hunting for ingredients to replenish his stores. When he finally returned to the tent, he found Harry sitting cross-legged on his cot, frowning faintly. He glanced up as the cloth door fell closed behind Salazar and nodded. "Fruitful search?" he wondered and Salazar could hear the exhaustion in his voice.
"Indeed," he agreed, setting his kit away. "You've been focussing this entire time?"
Harry shook his head. "I slept again, but I woke myself up," he admitted. At Salazar's raised eyebrow, he explained, "Nightmares."
"Ah." Salazar nodded and moved towards the food stores. "Perhaps something to eat and then you can get some real sleep."
Harry considered that for a moment, then asked, "Does the Dreamless Sleep Potion exist?"
Salazar frowned. "I don't know a potion by that name, but there is one I know that should keep your dreams at bay. It can't be used more than two nights in a row, but I can give you some tonight, if you honestly think you'll need it."
"Yes," Harry said without hesitation, and Salazar again wondered what things the boy had lived through.
They ate the soup Salazar had made – soup was easy and Harry hadn't eaten in days, he'd told the boy when he asked – in relative silence, then Salazar gave Harry a dose of the Dream-Free Potion. While Harry curled up to sleep, Salazar set up his potion station again, settling in to make more of the Dream-Free Potion; he only carried one dose, since he preferred to handle his nightmares on his own unless there were extenuating circumstances, but Harry would need the sleep, so it would be wise to have more on hand.
By the time Salazar had completed and bottled the potion, he was yawning every other minute, so he cleaned up his workstation and turned in.